As seen in the Press Democrat!
Schnitzel holds a very special place in my heart (and stomach). My Grandmother used to make it often and she was the master of schnitzels of all kinds. It was such a favorite that used to call me her “little schnitzel” which I think (I hope) talked to how special this preparation (and of course me) was. If you like fried chicken, schnitzel is for you.
Photo of Chef John Ask and his son, Tyler, cooking Schnitzel in the Ash family kitchen! Photo credit: John Burgess of the Press Democrat.
Schnitzel is a German-Austrian term which translates roughly to “slice” or “shave” according to the Oxford Dictionary. It’s described as a slice or “scallop” of veal or other light meat that is pounded then dusted with flour, egg and bread crumbs and fried. Not a particularly evocative description but most would agree it’s damned delicious and easy to do.
In Germany there are many variations that you’ll find in restaurants and homes:
• Weiner-Schnitzel usually made with veal. The “Weiner” designation refers to its supposed origin in Vienna in Austria (tho’ there is some dispute about this).
• Schweine-Schnitzel made with pork or pork tenderloin
• Puten-Schitzel made from turkey breast
• Hänchen-Schnitzel made from boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
In addition to different types of meat a schnitzel can also be served with a topping or filling. Here are some of the more traditional combinations:
• Jager-Schnitzel Veal or pork schnitzel topped with a mushroom sauce
• Zigeuner-Schnitzel topped with a “gypsy sauce” of paprika/bell peppers/onions
• Käse -Schnitzel Any of the meat schnitzels topped with melted cheese
• Schnitzel Holstein Topped with fried egg, onions and capers (specialty of Berlin)
• Cordon-Bleu From Switzerland, schnitzel stuffed with ham and Gruyere
The schnitzel approach is not uniquely German. Other cuisines have their own variations on the theme such as:
• Scallopini, Picatta or Milanese in Italy
• Tonkatsu in Japan
• Chicken Fried Steak in the American Southwest
This may be way more than you want to know but I find recipe similarities fascinating as they morph and move around the world. The method is straight forward:
• meat is gently pounded between sheets of plastic wrap. This is done to achieve an even thickness (usually 1/4 inch or so) for even cooking and to tenderize the meat. Use the flat side of your meat pounder to avoid tearing. If you don’t have a meat pounder, a rolling pin or even a heavy bottomed sauce pan works just fine.